By Ray Fleming

QUEEN Elizabeth opened the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh yesterday. In her speech she said the Parliament had established itself as “an integral part of Scottish life” and had “truly come of age”.

She made no reference to the Scottish National Party's plans for a referendum on independence and the Party's leader Alex Salmond simply said that Scotland would “always be firm friends and equal partners” with the rest of the UK. Many minds at the opening ceremony in Edinburgh will have been on the result of Thursday's Inverclyde by-election for a Parliamentary seat at Westminster. In the slipstream of its impressive success in the Scottish parliamentary elections two months ago the SNP had hoped to take this safe Labour seat but failed to do so. By by-election standards the result was satisfactory for Labour with a majority of almost six thousand and a share of the vote only slightly less than in May last year. The Conservatives came a distant third and the Liberal Democrat candidate lost her deposit with only 627 votes -- a quite awful outcome which the local party attributed to the unpopularity of Nick Clegg's leadership and the party's involvement in the coalition government. It is becoming very difficult indeed to see the Liberal Democrats recovering the ground they have lost over the past year before a 2015 general election.

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